Today we are going to take a look at running backs that have rushed for 1,000 yards or more during their rookie season. Finding a great running back is a hard thing to do, and when a running back is able to churn out a 1,000 yard season in his first year in the league it is often a sign of good things to come.
Eric Dickerson holds the record (through the 2008 season) for the most yards rushing in an NFL season by a rookie running back with 1,808 yards in 1983 for the Los Angeles Rams. What about some of the other facts surrounding 1,000 yard rookie running backs?
-Through the 2008 season, 56 different running backs have rushed for 1,000 or more yards in their rookie year.
-The top three rookie rushing performances all occurred within five years of each other. Ottis Anderson of the St. Louis Cardinals set the record for rushing yards by a rookie with 1,605 yards in 1979. Two years later in 1981, George Rogers of the New Orleans Saints would break the record when he gained 1,674 yards. Then two years after that Eric Dickerson would set the record that still stands today.
-The most yards in a season by a rookie running back who didn’t play in all 16 games is 1,470 by Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions in 1989.
-The first rookie to rush for 1,000 yards was Beattie Feathers who did it in 1934 as a member of the Chicago Bears. He was not only the first rookie to pass the thousand yard mark, but the first player overall to do it. He would never again attain such high numbers, with his second highest rushing total being 350 yards. Another rookie wouldn’t rush for 1,000 yards again for almost 30 years when Cookie Gilchrist did it in the AFL for the Buffalo Bills in 1962.
-The team that has had the most rookie 1,000 yard rushers all time is the Buffalo Bills with six. The players accomplishing this feat for the Bills are Cookie Gilchrist (1,096 yards – 1962), Terry Miller (1,060 yards – 1978), Joe Cribbs (1,185 yards – 1980), Greg Bell (1,100 yards – 1984), Willis McGahee (1,128 yards – 2004), and Marshawn Lynch (1,115 yards – 2007).
-Of the 56 rookies that would gain 1,000 or more yards during a season, only two did so as part of the old AFL. Cookie Gilchrist for Buffalo in 1962 and Paul Robinson for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968.
-The most touchdowns scored by a 1,000 yard gaining rookie running back in one season is 18 by Eric Dickerson. The fewest touchdowns scored by a rookie running back who managed to rush for 1,000 yards or more is three. There are three players tied for this low mark, William Andrews (Atlanta – 1979), Joe Delaney (Kansas City – 1981), and Reggie Brooks (Washington – 1993).
-In a span of four seasons, the Denver Broncos had three rookie running backs gain 1,000 or more yards in a season. They were Olandis Gary in 1999 (1,159 yards), Mike Anderson in 2000 (1,487 yards), and Clinton Portis in 2002 (1,508 yards).
-Through the 2008 season, only five of the 56 running backs in NFL history to gain 1,000 or more yards during their rookie season are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are Franco Harris (1,055 yards – 1972), Tony Dorsett (1,007 yards – 1977), Earl Campbell (1,450 yards – 1978), Eric Dickerson (1,808 yards – 1983), and Barry Sanders (1,470 yards – 1989). This will change though as some of the other notable running backs to accomplish this feat are Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Fred Taylor, Jamal Lewis, LaDainian Tomlinson, and more.